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Chapter 4 from Book V of an epic memoir about homeless existence in Maine

by | Dec 5, 2022

illustration/Katy Finch

Chapter Four: Resurrection 

“The tender, secret influence that passed from them into us could not rise again.” 
— Erich Maria Remarque, ​All Quiet on the Western Front

Jeremy and I were in front of Bill’s Pizza before seven that morning — ​probably around the time many little ones were rousting their parents to get the egg hunt started —​ and we were busking by eight. It was chilly, but when we worked together we could go song for song: He’d play one or two and, while he warmed his hands, I’d play one or two. This way, the music never stopped.

I got a pretty solid Wi-Fi connection there, and Amanda and I were texting. She was teasing me. She and CJ were somewhere on the west end of the Little City with Mark. They had an Easter present for me. The three of them were making their way to where we were. 

I was excited. Easter was always Toni’s favorite holiday — ​she likes the pastel colors, the pretty floral-print dresses and shiny white shoes —​ but it never meant much to me. I find it a morbid celebration. It’s a tribute to the Crucifixion of Christ, and though it celebrates the Resurrection, it is still representative of a human sacrifice. I find that disconcerting, to say the least. 

But I was excited for my present. Presents make me feel special, loved. And it’s rare that I wouldn’t accept a gift. My mom taught me it would be poor manners. If there’s one way I don’t want to seem poor, it’s in the way of manners.

When they finally arrived, CJ was carrying the present. It was the most beat-up guitar case I had ever seen. It was a hard-shell case, but at least 20 percent of the shell was just gone, destroyed and missing. The exposed areas revealed Styrofoam — very dirty Styrofoam. The chrome that’s supposed to hold the case together, to which the hinges and handle mount, was also largely missing. Part of the metal was jutting out, a very rigid protrusion that looked dangerously sharp. All but one of the hinges was broken off, too. This thing was ugly, and in worse physical condition than I was.

“What the hell is ​that?​” I asked, having already realized it was my present, but in utter disbelief.

“It’s a guitar case,” Amanda explained.

“Well, I can see that it ​used to be​ a guitar case,” I said, slacking in my manners.

“It’s your present,” she added. 

“Yeah,” said CJ. “We found it. I just carried it all the way from the West End.”

My manners evaporated. These were my good friends, and when in the company of good friends, one’s manners can sometimes be overridden by honesty. “I don’t want that thing!” I exclaimed. “It’s junk.”

I could see I had hurt their feelings. Even Trake looked at me with a sort of sadness in his eyes. Or maybe I was imagining that. 

“Really?” asked CJ, dejectedly. CJ is very tall, really laid-back, soft spoken, and wears glasses. He adjusted his frames and, in his peculiar manner, began using his hands to emphasize a series of events, unfurling one palm after the other just below waist level. “We just found this” (presenting one palm) “and I carried it most of the way” (other palm) “then Mark helped” (back to the first palm) “while Amanda was texting you” (other palm). 

I began to feel ashamed. They had all been a party to this, working together to bring me this gift and expecting I’d be pleased and grateful. I had been ungrateful, and somewhat rude. 

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Here, let me see it.” I took the present and propped it up against the wooden guardrail along the sidewalk, between Jeremy and me, right next to ​his​ case, which, until today, had appeared to be in rough shape itself. My present looked trashed. It looked homeless and abandoned. It fit right in.

I still have that guitar case and still use it. It’s pretty heavy — ​they really had worked hard to bring it to me — and when I had it while homeless, not a day went by that I didn’t consider burying it at sea, just throwing it in the harbor. If it wasn’t made of Styrofoam, I might have. 

But it ​has​ saved the life of my guitar more than once. It also turned out, to my surprise, to be strong enough to lay upon, and it became my bed, keeping me off the cold sidewalk or ground wherever I slept outside. 

I often wonder if the guitar I assume was in the case when it incurred such violent destruction survived. It sure helped me survive. 

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